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The NBA’s continued interest in Latinos

Photo: NBAE/ Getty Images

By now you’ve already heard plenty about the NBA’s Noche Latina initiative (by my count the fifth year they do it), an attempt to sell more NBA merchandise to Latinos celebrate the “growing support of NBA fans and players across Latin America and U.S. Hispanic communities.” The most obvious sign of this initiative, of course, is the strategically placed El/Los before the team name on the jersey (more on this in a bit).

The league (of which 16 percent of its fan base is comprised by Latinos) has seen an incredible amount of growth, not only in the Latino markets, but also in the number of Latino players in the league. Manu Ginóbili (San Antonio Los Spurs, Argentina), Al Horford (Atlanta Hawks, Dominican Republic), and JJ Barea (Minnesota Timberwolves, Puerto Rico) are all key members of their respective teams, to say the least.  According to the NBA, there are seven U.S.-born Latinos playing in the NBA, with 20 players born in Latin America and Spain (guys like Ricky Rubio, and the Gasol brothers).

This growing Latino representation in the NBA also mirrors a growing Latino presence in the NFL, and of course Major League Baseball. Along with the NBA’s ené-bé, the NFL has, and some MLB teams like the Milwaukee Cerveceros have also done their part to “honor” the Latino community.

Let’s be real, these major sports leagues aren’t stupid. They, along with every other corporation in the country, know the buying power of the rapid-growing Latino community. So as much as they may say that they want to celebrate our community, we all know that this would never happen if there were, say 30 million less Latinos in the U.S. right now. It all boils down to, what else: mo’ money.

And here’s where I’m a little split on the whole idea of things like Noche Latina. See, I was the kid that got excited when he first saw Vinny del Negro play because he might be Latino (he’s Italian-American). I was that kid that bought the Latino World Order shirt and wore it proudly to school. There was a time, not too long ago, where Latino kids didn’t have anything in the “mainstream” to look towards. And now look…the NBA has a night dedicated to us!

Of course, this doesn’t mean that sports leagues like the NBA have an open pass to “celebrate” our community under the guise of selling us more jerseys. Recently, our friends at tú wrote an excellent petition to stop the NBA’s Noche Latina. I agree that the jerseys, besides being grammatically incorrect, are completely stupid, and should be discontinued. But I don’t necessarily think that something like Noche Latina has to stop.

As the petition states, the NBA’s “current course of action is reductive of Latin American culture and history, condescending, and even absurd.”  I completely agree, but I also know that even if the NBA ever “got it right” we’d still find a way to say that somehow they didn’t.

About Adriana Villavicencio

Dr. Adriana Villavicencio is the youngest child of Ecuadorian immigrants. She has moved 29 times in her life, taking her on a journey from California to Bangalore, India, and New York City, where she recently earned a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and works as a Research Associate at New York University. An avid traveler, Adriana has collected experiences in four different continents and 16 different countries. But as a former high school English teacher, some of her fondest memories are those of her brilliant and brilliantly funny students in Brooklyn and Oakland. Adriana has contributed to several publications including the Daily News and, and is a managing editor for the Journal of Equity in Education. She earned a B.A. in English and an M.A. in English Education at Columbia University, and currently serves on the board of Columbia’s Latino Alumni Association (LAACU). She enjoys scary movies with red vines, Sauvignon Blanc, and her Maltese dog, Napoleon.

To learn more about Adriana’s education consulting company, please visit

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.



    It’s been interesting to read what Latino basketball fans have to say about the Noche Latina initiative. There seems to be both appreciation that the League is making an effort but also some embarrassment at what seems like an idea that is only half-thought out. We wrote about it recently on Reach Hispanic, and would love to hear your thoughts.

  2. hmm

  3. an untapped money well? sort of speak?



  6. i am confuse are spanish people from spain consider latino..i thought they was white ie european that is how most identify themselves


  8. An easy way to look at it is that Spaniards are from Spain, they are also hispanic too, even though most might not always choose to identify themselves in that way. There are also Latinos who are born abroad in other Spanish speaking countries in latin-america, they are called latinos because Spanish is the native language of their country of origin. People of any race could be latino.

  9. Latino is technically anyone whos language derives from Latin… Hispanic is anyone that was conquered by Spain so to speak…

  10. …WHO ????…

  11. $$$,$$$,$$$’s, baby.

  12. Because Latinos are taking over the world. Once sport at a time, next up golf.

  13. Kev Sa beat me too it. $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ wait $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ you get the point.

  14. To* not too* lol

  15. tha money, cant ever say it enough.

  16. I think some of us are never pleased. We complain if we’re not represented, and we bitch when we are. I think it’s a great step in the right direction. Money is going to be the primary objective of any franchise, regardless of who the target audience is. Why not be glad that they’re acknowledging us, as well?

  17. The last sentence of the article spoke volumes.

  18. They want Latino $$$$ and also maybe if Latinos get interested in the sport there will be more Latino players and super stars in the pro world.

  19. Money money money…MONEY!

  20. Loyal fans! And spend $$$!

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